What are the Big 5 Personality Traits?

Throughout history, there have been many attempts to define human personality and categorize it into specific traits. One of the most widely accepted personality trait models is the FFM (Five Factor Model) which lists five big personality traits – openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. This model is also commonly known by the acronyms OCEAN or CANOE. These five big personality traits cover a wide range of other qualities – for example, extraversion can also include assertiveness and warmth. This article looks at these 5 big personality traits and what they mean:

Openness to Experience

An openness to experience generally reflects a person’s intellectual curiosity and preference for variety. A person who is extremely open to experience, for example, is more likely to have impulsive behavior and shy away from routine. Alternatively, a person who is closed to experience will relish consistency, routine, and repetitive actions. People who have an openness to experience are generally more creative.


Those who are conscientious have a greater tendency to be organized and they will exhibit greater self-discipline. To act conscientiously is to show a respect for rules, order and ethical behavior. Those who are highly self-conscious can often be perceived as obsessive whereas those who have low conscientiousness can look almost lazy and unreliable.


If you are highly extroverted then you have an abundance of energy, thrive on positive emotion, and enjoy stimulation through the company of other humans. Those who are extroverted are often extremely chatty and could even be classed as attention seeking. On the flip side, those who are introverted prefer their own company and act almost solitary. Introverts will generally shy away from social settings whereas extroverts will simply thrive in these types of environments.


The level of agreeableness a person exhibit relates to their compassion, cooperativeness, and behavior towards others. Those who have a low level of agreeableness are usually highly competitive or regularly challenge the behavior and actions of others – this can seem argumentative. Alternatively, who are highly agreeable are highly compassionate and prefer to cooperate with others as opposed to being suspicious. A high level of agreeableness can be considered naive as a person is extremely trusting and submissive.


Finally, we have neuroticism which is a measure of how prone a person is to psychological stress. Furthermore, neuroticism is also a measure of emotional stability – how someone controls their emotions and impulses and how quickly they become angry or depressed. People with lower levels of neuroticism are generally emotionally stable and to no experience psychological problems. People who are highly neurotic however are prone to psychological conditions and generally have a worse emotional well-being.

There you have it – the five big personality traits as defined in the Five Factor Model. It is important to remember that these personality traits are not black and white – a person can exhibit many different qualities and could have a varying scale of any one of the big five traits during their lifetime.

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